Apr 4, 2024, 1:08:34 PM CDT Apr 9, 2024, 2:20:47 PM CDT

Henry's story: World-class cancer treatment, closer to home

Despite a complex cancer diagnosis, Henry finds expert care at Children’s Health and a team that nurtures his playful spirit.

Little boy in a hospital bed smiling with a coloring book. Little boy in a hospital bed smiling with a coloring book.

Doctors told Lindsay and her husband Craig that some kids walk through leukemia treatment and some crawl. But the important thing is: To simply get through it.

For their son, Henry, there were many days when just getting out of bed was a struggle.

Young boy laying in hospital bed with large teddy bear."There were times that the only way to convince Henry to get out of bed was to walk down the hall and watch the horses. We were so grateful that the Pauline Allen Gill Cancer and Blood Disorders Center (CCBD) in Plano overlooks a horse pasture," said Lindsay.

Over two years of intensive treatment, Henry had to endure 199 days in the hospital, 100 blood transfusions and 24 spinal taps. Through it all, Henry and his family held on tight to the smallest moments of joy – and leaned heavily on their care team's competence and compassion.

Henry's treatment was exceptionally intense because he had a rare form of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) – PH-positive ALL.

The very best doctor they could possibly have

When Henry was first diagnosed with leukemia at age 5, the couple considered uprooting their then family of four to be closer to cancer centers in Philadelphia, Boston or Cincinnati. But these thoughts stopped the moment they met Tamra Slone, M.D., Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist at Children's Health℠ and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Slone patiently explained PH-positive ALL to them. "There have been a lot of advancements in treating PH-positive ALL over the years. But it's still a form that's harder to treat because it can be resistant to chemotherapy. So we need to use more intensive therapy to give us a good chance of a cure," said Dr. Slone.

Craig and Lindsay were comforted by Dr. Slone's straightforward competence and confidence. "We immediately felt that we could stay right here. We were absolutely sure that Henry had the best doctor he could possibly have," said Craig.

With locations in Plano and Dallas, the CCBD at Children's Health allows patient families to have access to state-of-the-art care closer to home. Fortunately, Dr. Slone, like a majority of her pediatric oncologist colleagues, sees patients at both locations.

"Children's Medical Center Plano was a lot closer and easier to get in and out of for us," said Lindsay. "And we felt like we were getting the same level of treatment and care from the best doctor for us."

This was exactly the vision Dr. Slone and her team had hoped for the Plano campus with the Plano expansion.

"If your child has leukemia or cancer or sickle cell disease, you want the best care and you'll drive to the best care. But if you can get the best care an hour and a half closer to home – especially if you have another child and you work – that is huge," said Dr. Slone.

Henry's intensive therapy was nothing short of "rough." But getting through it would've been even tougher if they didn't have full confidence in Dr. Slone.

"Whenever Dr. Slone walked into the room, I'd think, 'Now we're down to business,'" said Craig. "Things are going to be taken care of. We have a game plan."

Making new friends and feeling like a normal kid

Dr. Slone didn't just have a clear care plan. She also had a plan to nurture Henry's playful, friendly spirit. She knew how challenging it had been that Henry couldn't really socialize like most kids for a few years – because of COVID-19, a compromised immune system and needing such intensive treatment. "Henry had to rely on the small, close-knit staff at Plano to serve not just as his care team, but also as his friends," said Lindsay.

When Dr. Slone first brought up the possibility of Henry attending Camp Esperanza, a week-long camp in July for kids with cancer treated at Children's Health, Craig and Lindsay were hesitant.

Henry's health was still fragile. And he'd never been away from home. But they agreed to listen to Dr. Slone's multiple pitches.

She described the safety of having a robust medical staff, the many volunteers, and also the amazing way camp gives kids the chance to feel normal again and make lifelong friends.

"A lot of kids see other kids at the clinic, but don't necessarily interact. So they can feel really isolated. Camp shows you there's 139 other kids going through exactly what you're going through. They have a central line, they've lost their hair, they have a hard time walking," Dr. Slone said.

People going fishing.She also stressed how campers get to reclaim some independence because cancer can make it feel like you've lost a lot. "The entire camp is set up for kids with special needs. Everything's adaptable. So they can climb up that rock wall or shoot a bow and arrow," said Dr. Slone.

When Henry describes camp, he lights up describing the zip lines and being able to go horseback riding. Most importantly, camp was where he met his best friend, someone he doesn't have to explain things to because he just "gets it."

"Camp was a game-changer for Henry," said Craig. "He got to be a normal kid in the middle of treatment that was very rough on all of us. We're so grateful that we realized there was no safer place for Henry to be than with Dr. Slone and that she pushed for Henry to go."

Introducing baby Slone

Young boy dressed up in costume.While the family had full confidence in Dr. Slone, Dr. Slone also had confidence in Henry's ability to get to the other side of treatment. She describes Henry as "a wise old man and a funny kid wrapped up together." She attributes his outgoing, funny personality to his parents, who also used humor to help get them through.

"His parents encouraged him to dress up. And when Henry walked into the clinic in one of his many superhero costumes, his excitement made everyone around him smile," said Dr. Slone. "It was a strong reminder that even as these kids are going through so much, they can still make you laugh along the way."

On August 8, 2023, exactly five days before Henry completed two years of treatment, Henry's baby sister was born.

Young boy holding babyCraig and Lindsay were overjoyed and had already agreed on the perfect name: Slone.

"We named our daughter after Dr. Slone, who is now part of our family," said Lindsay. They even spelled it the same, uncommon way (S-L-O-N-E) – a decision that makes Dr. Slone chuckle.

Deflecting this tremendous honor with her own sense of humor, Dr. Slone said, "They are an amazing family and it was very special to find out they were naming their daughter after me. But I'm not sure they'll thank me later when Slone realizes she's going to have to spell her name for everyone."

Learn more

With locations in Plano and Dallas, the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Health is a world-class pediatric treatment center recognized nationally for exceptional clinical care, leadership in children's cancer research and academic excellence. Learn more about our programs and services.

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patient story, cancer, treatment, leukemia

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